Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary- Homilies

"Be Not Afraid to Find Everything in Christ"
Homily for
Easter Sunday
Fr. Jonathan L. Reardon

24 April 2011
Year A 

Our Gospel today is St. Matthew’s account of Christ’s resurrection. Matthew proclaims this historical fact: that Jesus did indeed rise from the dead as He said, that He appeared that day, alive, to the same women that witnessed His brutal torture, execution and burial. The question that lingers is this: why these women go out to the tomb that morning – the morning after the Sabbath? St. Mark reports that they had gone out with spices to finish the burial rites. But when they arrive, they find that their plans are altered. The quiet morning is shattered by the by the appearance of the angel coming down from heaven, heralded by a terrifying earthquake – a quake that shakes them to their very core and it frightens them and not only them but the guards stationed around the tomb. It is no wonder the angel tells them: “do not be afraid.” The angel knows these women, he knows that they had come to pay their final respects to the Messiah, he knows their faith and their love; he therefore gives them the instructions to go to Galilee, tell His disciples and there you will see Him. Still a bit frightened the women went away filled with joy – the one whom they had followed, the one in whom they had trusted, the one whom they have loved had not abandoned them, He had not left them to fend for themselves but has confirmed their faith and ignited in their hearts a deeper love and trust in Him. As they meet Him along the way their initial reaction was to fall to His feet in homage, showing their affection and love for Him. With Christ’s instructions they become the first apostles of the Resurrection for it was entrusted to them to bring the message of the Risen Lord to His closest followers.

The Resurrection of Jesus is the central reality of the Catholic faith and has been preached as such since this moment in history – for over 2,000 years! Jesus gave the command to His disciples to announce that He is alive and still, 20 centuries later, we make the same proclamation.  And this message, this proclamation, this reality is the joy of our faith and crowns us with lasting happiness and consolation, for Christ who, says St. Josemaria Escriva, “was crucified, died, and was buried has triumphed over death, He has overcome sorrow, anguish, sin, and the power of darkness…in Him we find everything.”

It is no coincidence, then, that both the angel and Christ Himself, tell the women to not be afraid. For they want them to experience for themselves the great joy of Christ’s resurrection – the joy of His victory. And yet, St. Matthew reports, they were still fearful. This fear, I think, is common to us all. It is what holds us back from having an encounter with the Risen Lord and from being overjoyed for simply being Christians. For us, it seems that we can be all too comfortable in the darkness of our hearts, with a mammoth stone blocking the light of day – the light that radiates from the glory of the Risen Christ.

What is it, then, that we are afraid of? Why are we so comfortable in our darkness?  The fear of allowing the power of Christ’s resurrection to roll back that stone and expose us to the light of His grace. Perhaps it is the fear of knowing that to follow Him means death – not death in the natural sense, for that comes to us all anyway – but a death to self, the laying aside that which is comfortable, that which enflames our pride, that which avoids confrontation – not with others but with God, that which knows nothing but the wounds of hearts because that is all we have ever known. Perhaps we are afraid that to follow Christ means losing something of ourselves. But that which we do not realize, Pope Benedict reminds us, is that there is a remedy even for death. This remedy is Christ. This remedy leads to a transformation from within, it creates new life within us that does not end in death but begins a new the fullness of grace within us – it leads us to becoming fully the men and women God has created us to be. Opening our hearts to Jesus is allowing His death and His resurrection to shake us to the very core our being. It may frighten us at first, but like the women in our Gospel reading, we may be frightened but overjoyed. For this transformation leads to joy, a joy that is not commanded but given by God Himself. Upon his election as the Successor of Peter, on the 22 of October 1978, our soon-to-be Blessed Pope John Paul II shouted from the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica: “do not be afraid!” Echoing those same words, in his inaugural homily as the Vicar of Christ, Pope Benedict XVI commented:

“If we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing of what makes life free, beautiful and great… Do not be afraid of Christ! He takes nothing away, and he gives you everything. When we give ourselves to him, we receive a hundredfold in return. Yes, open, open wide the doors to Christ – and you will find true life.”

How, then, can we let the power of Christ’s resurrection seep into our minds and hearts? How can we pay our homage, affection and love for the Lord? By keeping Sunday holy. Every Sunday is a solemnity throughout the year. Every Sunday we gather around the altar of the Lord, to celebrate His passion, death and resurrection. Every Sunday, therefore, the central reality of Christian life – the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Christ – is made present to us. May we have the courage to let the power of this reality to pierce the darkness of our hearts, shake us to the depths of our being and transform us from within, for this is our encounter with the Risen Lord. Fearful yet joyful, let us not miss this opportunity to meet the Risen Christ and experience the power of His victory over death – a victory that is ours as well. As we prepare and come forward for Holy Communion, may this be the moment we come face to face with Christ and hear Him say to us: “Do not be afraid but believe!”



Rev. Jonathan L. Reardon is a priest for the diocese of Springfield in Massachusetts.
He serves at St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in West Springfield, MA


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